Lyric warriors, lyric women: Gendering Petrarchism in early modern England

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Mihoko Suzuki - Committee Chair


This dissertation examines the circulation and adaptation of Petrarchan poetics in the literary discourse of early modern England. Specifically, I explore the construction of poetic subjectivity and authority for male and female poets writing in the wake of Petrarch. While previous research of Petrarchism in the period has been limited to the examination of a single genre or even a single gender, this study extends beyond the sonnet form to include a variety of literary genres and juxtaposes the works of canonical male authors with female authors to highlight differences in appropriation. Chapter One examines Shakespeare's dramatization of Petrarchan poetics in Edward III and Othello. I argue that in these works Shakespeare both explores and criticizes the "warrior" aspect of Petrarchan poetics. Chapter Two argues that Mary Wroth's adaptation of Petrarchism in Pamphilia to Amphilanthus and Urania foregrounds the internalized psychological struggle of a female Petrarchan lover to achieve subjectivity and poetic authority. The third chapter considers how Aemilia Lanyer's representation of Elizabeth I and Christ in her collection Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum further empowers her position as a devotional poet. The final chapter turns to the role of lyric in the works of John Milton: the character of Eve who, I argue, is constructed as a poetic subject whose shift from lyric self-reflection (at her birth), to ontological contemplation (at God's calling) recapitulates Milton's own struggle as an ontological poet in a post-Petrarchan world.


Theater; Literature, English

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